Today’s story is about the humble school tombola. Yesterday at my daughter's summer fair, I was allocated by the PTA to manage the tombola stall. There were some impressive prizes - around 25 huge hampers.
I wasn't happy about managing a tombola stand, on the principle of gambling, but by the time I found out where I was allocated it was either that or the alcohol tombola, and it really was too late to re-organise the rota. (Maybe a separate post on how to deal with impossible choices in life). After 1.5 hours on the stall, I felt deeply concerned. It started with some Year 5 and 6 kids handing over tokens to pull one ticket out. It wasn't a winner, so they handed more tokens out (2 tokens for 1 ticket, 5 tokens for 8 tickets. For five tokens it was £2.50). One pair of girls (it's a girls' school) queued around four times, each time handing over five tokens. I suggested they might like to try some other stalls where they would be certain to get prizes. They disappeared and I thought they had taken my advice. They reappeared a while later. What they had done was go to the kiosk to buy more tokens so they could keep playing.
Some adult women also came by and they too kept handing over tokens. Their faces were quite determined, serious as they picked out the tickets. They also returned several times.
But it was one pair of girls from Year 6 that troubled me. They too kept returning to hand over their tokens. They too had gone to the kiosk to purchase more tokens. One of the girls was pep-talking the other "You can do it! You're amazing!" I understand the cheerleading, but in a game of chance it seemed strange that the encouragement of choice was around skill. Like previous players, when I noted that the tenor of their engagement was disturbing I encouraged them to go to other stalls. They probably spent £30+, staggering at a school fair and for pre-teen children. I asked them why they kept coming back. "Because you've got a chance". I felt depressed, these adults and children were exhibiting signs of gambling addiction. The tombola is a fair staple, but should we be more cautious about the habits it instills? What do you think? And what would you do?